My Urban Garden

Anyone anywhere can have a garden…

Sound familiar? I was shocked when I heard the first line spoken by Carol Bowlby in this National Film Board of Canada film on urban gardening from 1984. Separated by birth and about thirty years, she and I. Watching the film was like watching myself go through my own garden chores and routines.

And just look at her usage of recycled wash buckets, milk jugs, and assorted “garbage” in building a thrifty and organic garden well before it was in the vernacular (or minds) of any of us new-style URBAN HOMESTEADERS. Carol had it going on back in 1984. I salute you, lady.

Carol’s yard is slightly larger than mine (I think. Still need to work out the math), but hearing about how self-sustaining she and her family are within the confines of this space makes me even more enthusiastic about achieving the goals we have for our new yard. The first is to never buy another leaf of lettuce or salad green, again. I’m absolutely confident we can achieve this as I have done very well in much smaller and harsher growing condition. And where Carol has set aside room in her yard for kids’ space, I will be making room for the many non-edible plants that I am passionate about.

Spring can’t come soon enough! I just want to be out there, hunched over and digging in the soil with the sun on my back, chirping birds and urban sounds as my soundtrack.

Addendum: Davin says that our yard is larger… at least what will end up being the growing portion. In the film, Carol says her total garden (the entire yard itself is larger) is 260 square feet. We just did the math and our entire yard is approximately 700 square feet. Friends, that is the size of the apartment we just left! Putting numbers to it really drives home how different the new space will be. This is very exciting, indeed.

Special thanks to reader Marie-Louise who sent in this link!

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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22 thoughts on “My Urban Garden

  1. What a great flim! A laundry basket for harvesting greens is genius, and I’m going to look for a ladder to grow my yellow pear tomatoes on come garage sale season.

  2. thanks SOOO much! i love the advice of using old raspberry canes as city cat deterrents – brilliant! i also love how she advises to start small, build the soil and go from there! thanks so much gayla!

  3. I, too, love the ladder and expect I’ll be building a few out of scraps this year. Something about it’s chunkiness is just fun. :D

  4. Barry: Your comment made me go back and watch it again!

    Patience: I’ve been using very thorny Rugosa rose canes for the same purpose! Although then it was about keeping humans out of the garden. Here I do have a cat problem so I need a new bush.

  5. I think I saw the pictures of your new yard, and it looked rather rough. If you need two extra arms for clearing and smoothing that rough canvass, I’d be glad lend mine. I suppose you’d just use a tiller though.

  6. Hi Gayla: I did a google on Carol Bowlby , i think she is now Carol Bowlby Sifton and is on Facebook, she works with Altimers still lives in Halifax N.S. Runs a Bed and Breakfast.

  7. Donald – if it is the same Carol Bowlby – then she went on to become a published author and probably gave up her gardening. I’m thinking this isn’t the same person. Has anyone contacted the video producers to see where she is now? I’d love to hear about what she’s doing.

  8. Wow, great video and hard to believe it was made in the year I was born yet we share so much in common! It’s got me excited for the growing season, especially as it’s the 1st of March and the sun is shining in the north of England.

    The tip about srating small and enriching the soil is so true, I grew 4 different types of veg last year, caught the bug, put the work in autumn and winter and now I’m looking at around 15-20 different types of fruit and veg!

  9. Donald and My Edible Yard Urban Homestead: I think that’s the same woman. We did a google search last night, too after I posted. I was curious to know if she had gone on in the garden world.

    Daedre: I can’t wait to get started!

  10. thanks for sharing this – was nourishment for the soul as the west coast is being hit with snow storms & cold temps – unusual for us this late in the season. Am inspired by the ladder trick for tomatoes & runner beans (I have a few unsafe ladders waiting to be re-purposed).
    I also just found out St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally known as ‘Plant your Peas Day’ – hoping for a bit of sunshine then!

  11. Too funny – I just opened my computer in order to edit and publish a draft blog post with this very video! What are the chances? I kind of wish I had flute-and-vibraphone (xylophone?) soundtrack of my own… I’m happy with just one husband, though…

  12. I will be doing my first time gardening after this couple of weeks of cold ground. This is such an inspiring video and it really gave me ideas on how to start my first garden. I think I really need to start from a scratch. Thanks for sharing this one.

  13. this is such a great film – like you say so inspriing. we are not limited by space but by cold hills weather and also by proximity to the gum line. Still – she makes me want to raise the bar again which is always good!

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